Is Chocolate Healthy For You?
The short answer is: YES!
A dream come true for chocolate lovers – me included!!
However, not ALL chocolate is healthy. For chocolate to be considered healthy to eat, it should be made of high quality and organic cacao beans, have at least 70 percent cacao (or cocoa) and as little sugar as possible.
So unfortunately, I can’t say that M&Ms, Mars and Snickers are good examples of “healthy” chocolate… but I know, they are delicious!
And if you prefer white or milk chocolate: I’m sorry to say but they don’t offer the health benefits as pure dark chocolate does, because of too much added sugar, dairy and other artificial fillers.
But let me add this:
Chocolate in a small amount per day is good for you, because chocolate makes you happy!
Many people say that they feel happier when eating some chocolate. The explanation to this is probably that cacao beans, from which chocolate is made, contain a number of substances, which affect our reward system.
These substances are: caffeine (theobromine, an alkaloid), cannabis-like structures (anandamide, a cannabinoid), central stimulants and endorphins (phenylethylamine, a “pleasure chemical”). Together they work for a mood-enhancing effect.
But what substances make dark chocolate healthy?
While cacao isn’t exactly a vegetable, it’s plant-based, and its health-enhancing substances are flavonoids, antioxidants, and polyphenols.
As with more or less everything you eat – you’ll benefit from eating a moderate amount, not too much per day. About an ounce a day of pure (raw) dark chocolate would be a moderate and healthy amount.
In what ways can dark chocolate actually improve your health and quality of life?
Here are 5 health benefits of dark chocolate according to the Institute for Natural Healing:
1) It’s “food” for your brain: Healthy fats are good for your brain, but can chocolate really help keep your mind sharp as a tack? The answer is yes! According to one study, people who had two servings of hot cocoa every day for thirty days were able to complete timed cognitive testing 30 percent faster than the non-cocoa drinkers. Patients with restricted blood flow to the brain at the beginning of the study saw an eight percent improvement in blood flow at the end of the study.
2) It helps prevent sunburns: Eating chocolate can actually keep you out in the sun longer. Eating chocolate rich in flavanols protects the skin from harmful UV rays. The less processed the chocolate is, the more flavanols it will contain.
3) It helps prevent heart disease: Are you at risk for heart disease? A study out of Scotland finds that out of nearly five thousand participants, those who ate chocolate more than five times a week lowered their risk for heart disease by 42 percent. This doesn’t mean you should load up on candy bars… But it does mean that you should make friends with quality dark chocolate. For your heart’s sake!
4) It helps lower inflammation: Inflammation can lead to some nasty problems in the body. These can include high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. An Italian study shows that people who ate a serving of dark chocolate every three days had an average of 27 percent lower C-reactive protein levels in their blood than those who never ate it. C-reactive protein in the blood is a marker for inflammation, so the lower you can keep it, the better.
5) It helps lower stress: Here’s a benefit that everyone can enjoy. Researchers in Switzerland found that eating 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate per day for two weeks can reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, can mess with healthy hormone function. It also increases inflammation and can raise blood pressure. So next time you throw your feet up to relax, have some dark chocolate too! You’ll get double the cortisol-lowering benefit.
Now these are what I would call some really impressive benefits of dark chocolate!
But that’s not all!
According to Healthline, cacao beans have a wide variety of powerful antioxidants, even more than most other foods!
As mentioned above, quality dark chocolate is good for your heart health. Healthline further states that it can improve blood flow and cause a small decrease in blood pressure.
Moreover, it can help you with high cholesterol problems, since dark chocolate increases HDL (good cholesterol) and lowers the total LDL (bad cholesterol).
Cacao can also reduce insulin resistance, and may also significantly improve cognitive function in elderly people with mental impairment.
Moreover, dark chocolate is considered to have anti-aging benefits.
Like already mentioned, it protects the skin from UV damage, and it supports the heart and the brain function. But additionally it’s also high in epicatechin (catechin), an antioxidant, that has been found to destroy preformed glycated protein in blood plasma and decrease AGE (Advanced Glycation End-products) accumulation in retinal tissues.
High levels of glycation and AGE:s are factors that can speed up the aging process and contribute to some diseases.
So, by now you should be convinced that dark chocolate has some amazing health benefits!
Since dark chocolate has such a rich chocolate flavor – you don’t crave lots of it
It’s important to remember though, that to enjoy the health benefits of chocolate it has to be made of high quality, organic cacao beans, have at least 70 percent cacao (or cocoa), as little sugar as possible and preferably no other artificial ingredients and NO milk products! According to PaleoHacks, adding dairy to chocolate limits the body’s ability to absorb the phytonutrients.
So what’s the difference between cacao and cocoa?
Cocoa is the more processed form from the cacao bean, and therefore it hasn’t as powerful health benefits as raw or minimally processed cacao. Since cocoa is more processed it’s also sweeter than cacao, which has a more bitter taste.
But even if you don’t really like the bitter taste of dark chocolate today, you can get used to it! And when you enjoy eating 70 percent cacao, try moving up to 80 and even higher. Because the higher the cacao (or cocoa) content – and the less sugar – the more health benefits you’ll get.
And I’ve found another good thing with dark chocolate: I don’t get a lot of cravings for more and more of it – as I do when I eat milk chocolate.
I think it’s because dark chocolate has such a rich taste of chocolate so you get your chocolate cravings fulfilled with a less quantity, which is a good thing, right?!
If you LOVE chocolate SHARE this with your friends who also LOVE CHOCOLATE and you’ll make their day!!!
Ps: Isn’t it amazing that dark chocolate has so many anti-aging and health benefits!! If you want to know some more tips how to fight aging and optimize health click here: